Greece and shopping are a match made in heaven. Especially jewellery, carpets, shoes, clothing, well, almost everything. But it’s usually jewellery and textiles that capture my attention and empty my wallet. The fabric lace, alas, is mostly made in China these days, leather is often made in neighbouring Turkey, but carpets and kilims are Greek produced.
In ancient Greece jewellery was usually inlaid with pearls and dazzling gems or semi-precious stones, such as emeralds, garnets, carnelians, banded agates, chalcedony, and rock crystal. Artists also incorporated enamel inlays that dramatically contrasted with intricate gold settings. Ornate designs included shells, flowers, beetles and the heads of animals, and the sleek shape of dolphins. The Ottoman era featured plaited filigree, particularly in silver, which is highly-sought after in the artisan shops in Ioannina, in northwest Greece. But let’s go shopping on Rhodes. The southern Aegean island’s medieval town is a shopping mecca. Taste for Travel’s occasional foodie writer Georgia Gerardis is my guide.
Jewellery designs from ancient Greece, the Byzantine era and the occupation of the Ottomans remain key influences in gold and silver work. Up market shops often feature reproductions of museum pieces. Today, funky contemporary styles are just as popular. The Old Town has 200 narrow streets and lanes. It’s easy to get lost. I really don’t mind. Georgia? Where are you?
Oh, there you are. I buy a pair of brushed silver earrings for 59 euros at La Magia, 139 Socratous Street, the main drag in the historic Old Town. Good shop. In fact, great shop, with traditional as well as modern pieces. The background in the picture (below) is part of a retro scarf I bought in a Sydney second-hand shop for $2.
What a shame I don’t take more notice of the name of this shop (below) with its statement pieces of lace silver cuffs, bracelets and amulets in the village of Lindos. I’m hurrying past and just snap this as I go. Anyway, there is nothing else like it in Lindos, and it’s on the main shopping lane. It’s like the Old Town – addresses are vague but you can’t miss it.
If you want to browse online, try www.rhodesgallery.gr which has a range from ancient to modern, with prices starting at 28 euros. The selection isn’t huge, but it gives you a good idea on basic styles and prices. There’s nothing like being on the spot to shop properly. Traditional Rhodian jewellery is quite delicate, often using deer, a Crusader knight, the historic castle shape or roses as the central design.
If it’s carpets you’re after, then Peridis on Evreon Martyron Square in Old Town, Rhodes, is THE place to go. Carpet-making is an enduring legacy of centuries of Ottoman occupation. You might see Georgia’s friend, the beautiful Maria working outside at her loom. Peridis sells handmade carpets and kilims, silk rugs, antiques, cashmere, furs and leather which comes from Turkey – so close it’s an hour away by ferry.
The Ministry of Culture Museum’s Reproduction Shop on Ipitou St, in the New City offers fine reproductions of ancient friezes, tiles and statues. The Municipal Art Gallery of Rhodes is located above the shop. The gallery has a second venue in the Old Town (across from the Mosque of Suleiman) to house its collection of antique and rare maps and engravings.
- The tourist season officially ends in November, but the Old Town shops still open a couple of days a week over the winter when cruise ships dock.
- In summer they’re open until late at night.
- Many shops on other islands also close for the winter, but in Athens they’re open all year round.
- The island season starts again in chilly March.
- The islands of Crete, Hydra, Santorini and Mykonos are also famous for their jewellery. Don’t get me started or we’ll be here all day.
And thanks a million for being such a brilliant tour guide, Georgia.